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Speech to the Transnational crime in The Pacific, ANU College of Asia & The Pacific
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Transnational crime in The Pacific
Policy workshop hosted by the ANU College of Asia & The Pacific
12 May 2014
I firstly want to thank you all for being here today.
Today’s workshop is designed to be a conversation-starter: to promote new ideas and encourage debate that will inform the policy approach to tackling transnational crime in the Pacific in the years ahead.
I am very pleased to be surrounded today by such an esteemed group of people - from the ANU, the Australian Crime Commission, the Australian Federal Police, the Office of National Assessments, the Australian Institute of Criminology, the Australian Strategic Policy Institute and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade - who are so passionate about addressing transnational crime in our region.
I also want to say a special thank you to the ANU College of Asia & the Pacific for hosting today’s workshop and for being so proactive in seeking to build a new and constructive Pacific transnational crime policy dialogue.
In particular, I would like to acknowledge Professor Michael Wesley, Director of the School of International, Political and Strategic Studies at the ANU, who is not able to be here today due to overseas travel commitments. This workshop could not have happened without Michael and I am looking forward to continuing to work with him on transnational crime policy initiatives in coming months.
Ladies and gentlemen, in the last decade, the scale of globalisation has increased significantly - leading to an expansion of the global market place, advances in technology and communications and an increase in cross-border flows of people, capital, goods and services.
While globalisation brings many benefits to us all, the disruptive trends of globalisation have also helped transnational crime networks to thrive. The activities of these networks have also expanded and now include illicit drugs, counterfeit goods and fraudulent medicines, environmental crimes involving illegal logging, endangered wildlife and e-waste, people smuggling and trafficking in persons as well as corruption, fraud and money laundering.
Our Pacific neighbours are particularly vulnerable to increased transnational crime activities due to a range of geographic, socioeconomic and cultural factors and limited law enforcement capacity.
Transnational crime also hits Pacific nations especially hard in proportional terms. Illegal fishing is a particularly good example. The fishing sector currently contributes around AUD $278 million annually to the GDP of the Pacific Islands and provides over 19,000 jobs, representing one of the key pillars of sustainable economic growth and prosperity in the region. Illegal fishing therefore poses a profound threat to the future economic viability of Pacific Island nations and the livelihood of their inhabitants.
The importance of combating transnational crime in the Pacific
Developing effective strategies to combat transnational crime in the Pacific is an important part of the Government’s policy to make economic diplomacy the focal point of Australia’s international engagement.
Indeed, by assisting our Pacific neighbours to target transnational crime, we will help to remove a key threat to strong and sustainable local economies, poverty reduction and regional stability in the Pacific. This will in turn encourage closer diplomatic, trade and economic ties with Pacific nations that will enhance Australia’s own economic growth.
Combating transnational crime, particularly fraud, corruption and money-laundering, also helps to achieve the maximum effectiveness and impact of Australia’s aid program. This is a key foreign policy priority for the Government.
Professor Jason Sharman, Deputy Director of the Centre for Governance and Public Policy at Griffith University, has recently noted with reference to World Bank and United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) data that, in many countries:
‘Inward flows of development aid are often more than matched by outward flows of illicit money to be stashed or spent abroad, often in the very same countries providing development assistance.’1
Effective transnational crime mitigation strategies therefore help to ensure that the funds we are committing to aid projects in our region end up where they are supposed to and achieve their intended results - including sustainable economic development and poverty reduction.
Existing mechanisms to combat transnational crime in the Pacific
Australia already leads a strategic, multi-faceted approach to help Pacific nations combat transnational crime.
First, Australia has supported work to enable a proper understanding to be obtained about the nature and extent of transnational crime threats facing Pacific nations - a prerequisite for implementing effective criminal response strategies. Most recently, Australia co-funded the UNODC’s 2013 report, Transnational Organized Crime in East Asia and the Pacific: A Threat Assessment, which provides an analysis of the mechanics of a range of illicit trade flows in East Asia and the Pacific.
Second, Australia helps to build the capacity of Pacific nations to respond to transnational crime threats, especially at the operational level.
Last week (on 9 May), I visited the Pacific Transnational Crime Coordination Centre in Apia during my trip to Samoa. The Centre forms the core of the Pacific Transnational Crime Network, a multi-agency law enforcement network with 18 Transnational Crime Units based in 13 Pacific Island countries.
Australia provides significant administrative and operational resources to the Network, including 6 AFP advisers, helping to enhance the criminal intelligence and investigative capability of Pacific nations.
Through its broader International Liaison Officer Network, the AFP also assists in training law enforcement agencies in the Pacific and in building partnerships between those agencies to encourage a more coordinated regional anti-crime strategy.
And Australia’s Pacific Patrol Boat Program (to be followed in future by the Pacific Maritime Security Program) provides vessels to Pacific nations to enable them to patrol their exclusive economic zones - critical in identifying and enforcing criminal activity. The Program also improves regional security cooperation and training in the Pacific.
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Third, Australia has supported the establishment of a uniform framework - drawn from United Nations compacts such as the UN Convention Against Corruption and the UN Convention Against Transnational Organised Crime - to guide a consistent legislative and regulatory response from Pacific nations to counter transnational crime.
Finally, through its active leadership role in the Pacific, including as part of the Pacific Islands Forum, Australia has emphasised the need to develop closer and broader regional partnerships between Pacific nations and to integrate local initiatives into regional anti-crime strategies.
Last week, I attended the Pacific Islands Forum Special Leaders’ Retreat in the Cook Islands to discuss the 2013 Pacific Plan Review, which seeks to advance regional cooperation and integration in the Pacific. The significant threat posed by transnational crime is a core example of the need to promote a more coordinated, regional Pacific agenda.
Future approaches to combating transnational crime in the Pacific
Going forward, we need to continue to work with our Pacific neighbours to develop an effective regional strategy to combat transnational crime.
As Jeremy Douglas, the UNODC Regional Representative for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, has said, it takes a network to defeat a network. With the transnational crime networks that operate in the Pacific becoming increasingly sophisticated and versatile, the imperative to work together to disrupt those networks has never been so strong.
In particular, it will be important to encourage closer partnerships, broader information-gathering and data sharing, interagency cooperation and whole-of-government initiatives, the adoption of a common transnational crime regulatory framework in the Pacific and further law enforcement capacity-building activities.
Continuing to improve knowledge about the nature, extent and trends of transnational crime in the Pacific will also be crucial - and I know that the UNODC will continue to play a leading role in that regard.
We also need to look towards other innovative ideas, including, as Michael Wesley has highlighted, strategies that focus on reducing demand for the resources and activities that sustain criminal networks as well as the rehabilitation of victims of transnational crime. 2
Today, we are here to discuss how we can all work together to target transnational crime in the Pacific in the years ahead - to assess what has worked in the past and what hasn’t and to canvass new ideas and new strategies that can be explored in the future.
I am looking forward to hearing from all of you throughout the day.
Ladies and gentlemen, thank you.
Jason Sharman, ‘Chasing Kleptocrats’ Loot: Narrowing the Effectiveness Gap’, U4 Anti-Corruption Resource Centre, August 2012 (Issue 4), 1.
Michael Wesley, ‘Transnational Crime and Security Threats in Asia’, Report Commissioned by the Australian Agency for International Development, Canberra, December 2007, 15.
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